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Reclaiming Value: An Interview with Raj Patel

In his latest book, The Value of Nothing, Raj Patel explores the failures of so-called free market capitalism, and highlights some of the ways people are changing the democratic system. One of the most exciting social movements for Patel is the food movement, where thousands of people are raising the bar for social justice by improving the health and environmental impacts of the food we produce, and the labor practices employed in how we bring food to the table, with the goal of providing a stable food supply for all people.

The title of his book comes from a quote by Oscar Wilde, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” I spoke to Patel this week to better understand where our market system went wrong, and how we can begin to reclaim the idea of value from the marketplace. Read more

All That Glitters is Not Gold: Biotechnology Has Failed Us, So Why Promote It Abroad?

The head of the World Food Program announced on Friday that an additional 105 million more people have become hungry in 2009, adding to the one billion plus who were already food insecure. The day before, Secretary Clinton gave a speech about hunger in the world, speaking in broad strokes: “[H]unger belies our planet’s bounty. It challenges our common humanity and resolve. We do have the resources to give every person in the world the tools they need to feed themselves and their children.”

In the next sentences, she gives a clue about what “tools” she might be referring to by praising the Green Revolution — without noting the depleted water table, reduced soil fertility, massive farmer debts and increased rates of farmer suicides left in the wake of the failed experiment in India. Read more

Brooklyn Food Conference Takes to the Streets

On Saturday, 3,000 people gathered at John Jay public high school for the Brooklyn Food Conference, a grassroots, volunteer-organized discussion around the state of our food system, featuring keynote talks by Dan Barber, Anna Lappé, Raj Patel, and LaDonna Redmond.  Along with these talks were 70 workshops throughout the classrooms of the school, on subjects as varied as growing your own food, starting a co-op and the value of breastfeeding.

According to the accompanying bright yellow guide, one of the goals of this event was to “bring Brooklynites together to demand — and participate in creating — a vital, healthy, and just food system available to everyone.” By my assessment, that is just what’s begun to happen. Read more

Who Owns Our Food? Thoughts on a New Green Revolution

Seed and chemical giant Monsanto and friends have lately been conducting all-out re-branding campaigns, seeking to present themselves as the answer to world hunger and the actualization of sustainability.  As an extension of this tight message control, Oxfam is hosting a panel discussion at the Asia Society in New York tomorrow at 8:30 am called “The Global Food Crisis – Time for Another Green Revolution?“  But the discussion seems like it will be rather one-sided. Read more